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Publication numberUS20070022060 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/519,739
Publication dateJan 25, 2007
Filing dateSep 11, 2006
Priority dateOct 16, 2001
Also published asUS7814032, US7818268, US8073787, US8260629, US8429093, US20030140014, US20090287344, US20120066036, US20120298739
Publication number11519739, 519739, US 2007/0022060 A1, US 2007/022060 A1, US 20070022060 A1, US 20070022060A1, US 2007022060 A1, US 2007022060A1, US-A1-20070022060, US-A1-2007022060, US2007/0022060A1, US2007/022060A1, US20070022060 A1, US20070022060A1, US2007022060 A1, US2007022060A1
InventorsTodd Fitzsimmons
Original AssigneeFitzsimmons Todd E
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
System and method for mail verification
US 20070022060 A1
Abstract
A system and method is provided for transmitting mail verification data over a wide area network, such as the Internet, in response to receiving and authenticating at least a portion of mail identification (ID) data. In one embodiment of the present invention, a mail verification application is adapted to store at least a verifying portion (e.g., an identifiable code portion, a shipping portion, a recipient portion, etc.) of mail ID data in memory. The mail ID data is then affixed to a mail object. The mail object is then manually delivered to a recipient. At least an authenticating portion of the mail ID data is then provided to a reception device. The reception device, which communicates with the mail ID device over a wide area network, transmits at least the authenticating portion of the mail ID data to the mail verification application operating on the mail ID device. The mail verification application then compares the authenticating portion of the mail ID data with the verifying portion stored in memory. If the authenticating portion of the mail ID data is authenticated, mail verification data is sent to the reception device. In one embodiment of the present invention, at least a portion of the mail verification data includes authenticating data, securing data, sender data, recipient data, mail-content data, downloadable-product data, sender-web-page data, and/or third-party-web-page data.
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Claims(25)
1. A method for using a single barcode to verify the authenticity of and identify a sender of a physical mail object that is being sent from said sender to a recipient via a mail carrier, comprising:
a sender of a physical mail object generating a unique identifier, wherein said unique identifier can be used by said sender to identify said physical mail object;
encoding at least said unique identifier, sender data and recipient data into a single barcode, wherein said sender data identifies said sender of said physical mail object and said recipient data identifies a recipient of said physical mail object;
storing at least a portion of said encoded data in a database, said encoded data comprising at least said unique identifier, said sender data and said recipient data;
printing said single barcode on said physical mail object;
submitting said physical mail object to a postal carrier;
scanning said single barcode to acquire said encoded data; and
comparing at least a portion of said encoded data to data stored in said database to verify the authenticity of said physical mail object, wherein said at least a portion of said encoded data can be used by said postal carrier to identify said sender of said physical mail object.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of sending information pertaining to said physical mail object electronically to said sender, wherein at least a portion of said information indicates that said physical mail object has been received by said mail carrier.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein said step of encoding at least said unique identifier, sender data and recipient data into a single barcode further comprises encoding at least said unique identifier, sender data, recipient data and shipping data into a single barcode, wherein said shipping data identifies at least a particular method of shipping said physical mail object from said sender to said recipient.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein said step of storing at least a portion of said encoded data in a database further comprises storing data in said database that can be used to identify at least one shipping location of said physical mail object and at least one ship date of said physical mail object.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein said step of scanning said single barcode to acquire said encoded data further comprises comparing at least a portion of said encoded data with data stored in said database and (1) delivering said physical mail object directly to said recipient if there is correspondence between said at least a portion of said encoded data and data stored in said database and (2) not delivering said physical mail object directly to said recipient if there is no correspondence between said at least a portion of said encoded data and data stored in said database.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein said step of sending information pertaining to said physical mail object electronically to said sender further comprises sending an email to said sender, wherein said email includes said information.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein said step of storing at least a portion of said encoded data in a database further comprises storing at least a portion of said encoded data in a database that is not maintained by said sender.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein said recipient data identifies said recipient by identifying the destination of said physical mail object.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein said sender data identifies said sender by identifying the origin of said physical mail object.
10. The method of claim 1, wherein said step of submitting said physical mail object to a postal carrier further comprises submitting said physical mail object to the United States Postal Service.
11. A mail system that uses a single barcode to track and identify a sender of a physical mail object that is being sent to a recipient via a mail carrier, comprising:
a scanner for receiving encoded data by scanning a single barcode on a physical mail object, said encoded data including at least data that identifies a sender of said physical mail object, a recipient of said physical mail object, and a unique identifier for said physical mail object;
a database for storing at least data related to said physical mail object, including at least one shipping location for said physical mail object and at least one ship date for said physical mail object; and
at least one application in communication with said scanner and said database, said at least one application being adapted to:
store at least a portion of said encoded data in said database; and
provide said sender with information related to said physical mail object.
12. The mail system of claim 11, wherein said unique identifier is created by said sender and can be used by said sender to identify said physical mail object.
13. The mail system of claim 11, wherein said encoded data further includes data that identifies how said physical mail object is to be delivered to said recipient.
14. The mail system of claim 11, wherein said at least one application is further adapted to store said encoded data in said database.
15. The mail system of claim 11, wherein said at least one application is further adapted to receive said encoded data from said sender and to store said encoded data in said database.
16. The mail system of claim 11, wherein said at least one application is further adapted to receive said encoded data from said scanner and to store said encoded data in said database.
17. The mail system of claim 11, wherein said at least one application is further adapted to received said encoded data from said scanner and to determine whether there is correspondence between said encoded data and data stored in said database.
18. The mail system of claim 17, wherein said at least one application is further adapted to route said physical mail object directly to said recipient if there is correspondence.
19. The mail system of claim 11, wherein said data that identifies a sender and a recipient of said physical mail object further comprises data that identifies an origin and a destination of said physical mail object.
20. The mail system of claim 12, wherein said at least one application is further adapted to store said at least one shipping location and said at least one ship date in said database.
21. The mail system of claim 20, wherein said encoded data further comprises said at least one shipping location and said at least one ship date.
22. A system for marking a physical mail object so that the physical mail object can be tracked and the sender of the physical mail object can be identified, comprising:
a computer system;
a printer in communication with the computer system and adapted to print at least one barcode on a physical mail object; and
at least one application operating on the computer system and in communication with the printer, the at least one application being adapted to:
allow a sender of the physical mail object to create an identifier that uniquely identifies the physical mail object; and
encode at least the identifier, sender data and destination data into a single barcode, wherein the single barcode is printed by the printer on the physical mail object, the sender data can be used to identify the sender of the physical mail object, and the destination data can be used to identify the destination of the physical mail object.
23. The system of claim 22, wherein the at least one application is further adapted to allow a sender of the physical mail object to create an identifier that uniquely identifies the physical mail object and at least one other attribute of the physical mail object, the at least one other attribute being selected from a list consisting of the recipient, the sender and the contents of the physical mail object.
24. The method of claim 22, wherein the at least one application is further in communication with a database and is further adapted to store the identifier, the sender data and the destination data in said database.
25. The method of claim 22, wherein the at least one application is further adapted to communicate with a second computer system via a wide area network and to receive data from the second computer system related to the delivery of the physical mail object.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/271,471, filed Oct. 15, 2002, which claims the benefit pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 119(e) of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/330,031 filed Oct. 16, 2001, which applications are specifically incorporated herein, in their entirety, by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to mail verification, and more particularly to a system and method of authenticating at least one mail object by providing at least a portion of mail identification data over a wide area network, such as the Internet, in order to receive mail verification data.

2. Description of Related Art

Currently there are two ways to provided mail objects (e.g., letters, documents, packages, etc.) to an end user; that being electronically (e.g., email, etc.) and through traditional mail services (e.g., U.S. Postal Service, Federal Express, UPS, Courier, etc.). However, because certain mail objects cannot be delivered electronically (either because its impossible or impractical), they are delivered using traditional mail services.

There are several problems with delivering mail objects through traditional mail services. First, the mail object is typically secured inside packaging (e.g., envelops, boxes, etc.) before it is provided to the mail service. Thus, neither the mail service nor the recipient is aware of the contents of the package until such package is opened by the recipient. This creates a problem in that hazardous mail objects (i.e., Anthrax, explosives, etc.) are not detected until they are opened by the recipient, thus exposing the recipient to the hazardous material. It also creates a problem in that mail objects (in general) are not known until they are opened by the recipient, thus making it difficult for the recipient (or his designee) to properly screen, sort or avoid certain mail objects (e.g., offensive mail, annoying mail, etc).

Second, a manually delivered mail object is limited to a one-way production of a finite set of information and/or products. This becomes problematic when the sender of the mail object is interested in providing or receiving additional information (e.g., product instructions, warranty information, etc.). Finally, contents that can be delivered electronically (e.g., advertisements, software, etc.) are often included in mail objects that are delivered via traditional mail services. The drawback with this is that it increases the cost associated with producing and/or delivering the mail object and increase the size of the mail object. For at least these reasons, a need exists in the industry for a system and method of providing mail verification data in response to receiving mail ID data over a wide area network, such as the Internet.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a system and method for providing mail verification data over a wide area network, such as the Internet, in response to receiving and authenticating at least a portion of mail identification (ID) data. Preferred embodiments of the present invention operate in accordance with at least one reception device, a mail identification (ID) device, a memory, and a mail verification application adapted to communicate with the reception device over a wide area network, such as the Internet. Specifically, the mail verification application is adapted to store at least a verifying portion of mail ID data in memory. In one embodiment of the present invention, the verifying portion of the mail ID data includes an identifiable code portion (e.g., an alpha code, a numeric code, an alphanumeric code, a symbolic code, a digital code, etc.), a shipping portion (e.g., ship date, shipping location, shipping method, etc.) and/or a recipient portion (e.g., the recipients name, address, email address, IP address, account number, social security number, etc.). The mail ID data is then affixed to a mail object. The mail object, which may further include a mail-to-address, a return-mail-address, and/or postage, is then manually delivered to a recipient. In one embodiment of the present invention, the mail ID data further includes mail-to-address data, return-mail-address data, and/or postage data.

At least an authenticating portion of the mail ID data is then provided to the reception device. The reception device, which communicates with the mail ID device over a wide area network, transmits at least the authenticating portion of the mail ID data to the mail verification application operating on the mail ID device. The mail verification application then compares the authenticating portion of the mail ID data with the verifying portion stored in memory. If the authenticating portion corresponds to the verifying portion (e.g., matches, is reasonably related, etc.), then mail verification data is sent to the reception device. In one embodiment of the present invention, at least a portion of the mail verification data includes authenticating data (indicating that the mail ID data has been authenticated), securing data (indicating who secured the mail object), sender data (indicating who sent the mail object), recipient data (indicating the intended recipient of the mail object) and/or additional data (e.g., the contents of the mail object, downloadable product data, sender web-page information, third party advertisements, etc).

In one embodiment of the present invention, the mail ID device further includes an input device adapted to provide at least a verifying portion of the mail ID data to the mail verification application and/or an output device adapted to affix the mail ID data on the mail object. In another embodiment of the present invention, the reception device includes an input device for receiving at least an authenticating portion of the mail ID data from the mail object and/or a mail authenticating application adapted to receive at least the authenticating portion of the mail ID data from the input device and provide at least the authenticating portion of the mail ID data to the mail ID device. In another embodiment of the present invention, the U.S. Postal Service (or an interim authenticating or screening entity) is the recipient of the mail object, thus interacting with the reception device to receive mail verification data.

A more complete understanding of the system and method for providing mail verification data in response to receiving at least a portion of mail ID data will be afforded to those skilled in the art, as well as a realization of additional advantages and objects thereof, by a consideration of the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment. Reference will be made to the appended sheets of drawings which will first be described briefly.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates one embodiment of the mail verification system.

FIG. 2 illustrates a mail ID device communicating with a plurality of reception devices over a wide area network, such as the Internet.

FIG. 3 illustrates one embodiment of the mail ID device and the reception device depicted in FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating one method of providing mail verification data in response to receiving at least a portion of mail ID data.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention provides a system and method for providing mail verification data over a wide area network, such as the Internet, in response to receiving and authenticating at least a portion of mail identification (ID) data. In the detailed description that follows, like element numerals are used to describe like elements illustrated in one or more figures.

Preferred embodiments of the present invention operate in accordance with at least one reception device, a mail identification (ID) device, a memory, and a mail verification application adapted to communicate with the reception device over a wide area network, such as the Internet. FIG. 1 illustrates one embodiment of the mail verification system 10, which includes a mail ID device 110 and a reception device 120 communicating through a wide area network 102, such as the Internet. It should be appreciate, as depicted in FIG. 2, that the reception device(s) 120 includes, but is not limited to, personal computers, set top boxes, personal digital assistances (PDAs), mobile phones, land-line phones, televisions, bar code readers, and all other physically and wirelessly connected reception devices generally known to those skilled in the art. It should further be appreciated that the number of reception devices 120 depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2 are merely to illustrate how the present invention operates, and are not intended to further limit the present invention.

As shown in FIG. 3, the mail ID device 110 further includes a mail verification application 112 and a memory 114. The mail verification application 112 is adapted to store at least a portion (i.e., a verifying portion) of mail ID data in the memory 114, receive at least a portion (i.e., an authenticating portion) of mail ID data from the reception device 120, and provide mail verification data if the portion of the mail ID data received from the reception device 120 is authenticated. It should be appreciated that the mail verification application 112 may further be adapted to generate the mail ID data and provide it to an external device (e.g., a printer, etc.) or receive at least a verifying portion of the mail ID data from an external device (e.g., a scanner, etc.). It should also be appreciated that the mail verification application 112 may exist as a single application, or as multiple applications (locally and/or remotely stored) that operate together to perform the verification functions as described herein. It should further be appreciated that the location of the memory device 114 depicted in FIG. 3 is not intended to further limit the present invention. Thus, a memory device that is, for example, external to the mail ID device 110 is within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Referring back to FIG. 1, where the dashed arrows indicate data transactions and the solid arrow indicates physical movement, mail ID data 132 is affixed to a mail object 130 (as used in its broader sense to encompass the packaging that surrounds the content). It should be appreciated that mail ID data can be encoded/encrypted (e.g., using bar code data, digital data, etc.) to prevent fraudulent usage. It should further be appreciated that affixing the mail ID data 132 on the mail object 130 includes, but is not limited to, printing or attaching mail ID data directly on the outer surface of the mail object 130 or printing/storing the mail ID data 132 on labels, ICs, smart cards, RFID tags, or any other data storage devices (or materials) generally known to those skilled in the art, and attaching them to the outer surface of the mail object 130. It should also be appreciated that the location of the mail ID data 132 on the mail object 130 in FIG. 1 is merely to exemplify how the invention operates, and is not intended to further limit the present invention. Thus, affixing the mail ID data 132 in some other location, such as over the sealing flap of an envelope, is within the spirit and scope of this invention.

At least a portion (i.e., a verifying portion) of the mail ID data 132 (either before or after the mail ID data is affixed) is stored in the mail ID device 110, or more particular (as shown in FIG. 3) in a memory 114 located within the mail ID device 110. Specifically, the mail verification application 112 either receives or generates at least the verifying portion of the mail ID data 132. The verifying portion is then stored in the memory 114. In one embodiment of the present invention, the verifying portion of the mail ID data includes a identifiable code portion (e.g., an alpha code, a numeric code, and alphanumeric code, a symbolic code, a digital code, etc.), a shipping portion (e.g., ship date, shipping location, shipping method, etc.), and/or a recipient portion (e.g., the recipients name, address, email address, IP address, account number, social security number, etc.). The mail object 130, which may further include a mail-to-address 134, a return-mail-address 136, and/or postage 138, can then be manually delivered to a recipient. It should be appreciated that the mail ID data 132 can also be encoded (e.g., in a bar code, etc.) to include mail-to-address data, return-mail-address data, and/or postage data. In other words, for example, mail ID data could be encoded to include both coded data and postage-account data.

Once the recipient (or their designee) receives the mail object 130, at least an authenticating portion of the mail ID data 132 is provided to the reception device 120. The reception device 120, which communicates with the mail ID device 110 over a wide area network 102, transmits at least the authenticating portion of the mail identification data to the mail verification application 112 operating on the mail ID device 110. The mail verification application 112 then compares the authenticating portion of the mail ID data with the verifying portion stored in memory 114. If the received portion is authenticated, or corresponds to the verifying portion (e.g., matches, is reasonably related, etc.), then mail verification data is sent to the reception device 120.

In one embodiment of the present invention, at least a portion of the mail verification data includes authenticating data (e.g., image data, audio data, etc.) indicating that the mail ID data has been authenticated. This would allow, for example, the reception device 120 to produce at least one authenticating image on a display and/or perform at least one authenticating sound on a speaker. In another embodiment of the present invention at least a portion of the mail verification data includes securing data (indicating who secured the mail object), sender data (indicating who sent the mail object), recipient data (indicating who is to receive the mail object) and/or additional data (e.g., the contents of the mail object, downloadable product data, sender web-page data, third party advertisements, etc).

In another embodiment of the present invention, the mail ID device and/or the reception device further include an input device (e.g., 118, 124) adapted to receive at least a portion of the mail ID data. It should be appreciated that that the input devices depicted and discussed herein (e.g., 118, 124) include, but are not limited to, scanners (e.g., bar code scanners, etc.), keyboards, RFID readers, smart card readers, IC readers, and all other input devices generally known to those skilled in the art.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the mail ID device further includes an output device 116 adapted to affix (e.g., print, store, etc.) the mail ID data on the mail object. It should be appreciated that affixing the mail ID data on the mail object includes, but is not limited to, printing or attaching mail ID data directly on the outer surface of the mail object or printing/storing the mail ID data on labels, ICs, smart cards, RFID tags, or any other data storage devices (or materials) generally known to those skilled in the art, and attaching them to the outer surface of the mail object. It should further be appreciated that the output device depicted and described herein (e.g., 116) includes, but is not limited to, printers, data storage device (e.g., device capable of storing data on ICs, smart cards, RFID tags, etc.), and all other output devices generally known to those skilled in the art.

In another embodiment of the present invention, as shown in FIG. 3, the reception device 120 further includes a mail authenticating application 122 adapted to receive at least the authenticating portion of the mail ID data from the input device 124 and provide at least the authenticating portion of the mail ID data to the mail ID device. It should be appreciated that the mail authenticating application 122 may exist as a single application, or as: multiple applications (locally and/or remotely stored) that operate together to perform the authenticating functions as described herein.

In one embodiment of the present invention, the mail ID data further includes software-booting data adapted to boot the mail authenticating application, an email application and/or a browser application. Either one of these applications could then be used to provide at least an authenticating portion of said mail ID data to said mail ID device, provide additional information to said mail ID device (or the sender of the mail object), and/or receive additional information from either the mail ID device, the sender of the mail object, or a third-party. In another embodiment, the mail verification data further includes software-booting data adapted to boot an email application and/or a browser application. Either one of these applications could then be used to provide additional information to the mail ID device and/or receive additional information from either the mail ID device, the sender of the mail object, or a third party.

In another embodiment of the invention, the reception device 120, or more particularly the mail authenticating application 122 is adapted to provide a reply email to the mail ID device 130 or the sender of the mail object. This reply email may either be sent automatically, to acknowledge the reception of the mail ID data and/or mail verification data, or manually, to allow the recipient to communicate with the mail ID device and/or sender of the mail object. In another embodiment of the invention the mail verification application 112 is adapted to provide the mail verification data to the reception device 120 via an email.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the U.S. Postal Service (or an interim authenticating or screening entity) is the recipient (as defined by this application) of the mail object 130, thus interacting with the reception device 120 to receive mail verification data. If mail is authenticated (or approved in the case of screening), the mail object 130 is forwarded on to the actual intended recipient.

FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating one method of providing mail verification data in response to receiving at least a portion of the mail ID data. Specifically, in step 402 mail ID data is affixed to a mail object. At step 404, a verifying portion of the mail ID data is stored in a memory device. The mail object is then delivered to its recipient (or designee) at step 406. At step 408, a reception device receives at least an authenticating portion of the mail ID data. The reception device then provides at least the authenticating portion to a mail ID device at step 410. If the authenticating portion of the mail ID data corresponds to the verifying portion of the mail ID data, then mail verification data is provided to the reception device at step 412. It should be appreciated that storing the verifying portion of the mail ID data before the mail ID data is affixed to the mail object is within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Having thus described multiple embodiments of a system and method of providing mail verification data in response to receiving mail ID data, it should be apparent to those skilled in the art that certain advantages of the system have been achieved. It should also be appreciated that various modifications, adaptations, and alternative embodiments thereof may be made within the scope and spirit of the present invention. The invention is further defined by the following claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7325732 *Dec 4, 2001Feb 5, 2008Bowe Bell + Howell Postal Systems CompanyMethod and system for mail security and traceability
US8451475May 1, 2007May 28, 2013Kofax, Inc.Systems and methods for routing a facsimile confirmation based on content
US8593673 *Oct 20, 2010Nov 26, 2013Kofax, Inc.Systems and methods for routing a facsimile confirmation based on content
US8599419Aug 30, 2012Dec 3, 2013Kofax, Inc.Systems and methods for routing facsimiles based on content
US8792126Oct 15, 2013Jul 29, 2014Kofax, Inc.Systems and methods for routing facsimiles based on content
US8804178Feb 25, 2013Aug 12, 2014Kofax, Inc.Systems and methods for routing a facsimile confirmation based on content
US20110032578 *Oct 20, 2010Feb 10, 2011Kofax, Inc.Systems and methods for routing a facsimile confirmation based on content
Classifications
U.S. Classification705/402
International ClassificationG06Q10/00, H04L12/58, G06F17/00
Cooperative ClassificationG06Q30/0241, H04L12/585, H04L51/12, G06Q20/382, G06Q10/107
European ClassificationH04L12/58F, G06Q10/107, G06Q20/382, G06Q30/0241
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Mar 26, 2014FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Nov 5, 2013ASAssignment
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:FITZSIMMONS, SHANNON;REEL/FRAME:031646/0034
Effective date: 20131025
Owner name: SECURED MAIL SOLUTIONS, LLC, NEVADA
Jan 25, 2012ASAssignment
Owner name: SECURED MAIL SOLUTIONS, LLC, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:FITZSIMMONS, TODD E.;REEL/FRAME:027594/0778
Effective date: 20120113
Jan 18, 2011CCCertificate of correction